B1 – The Power of Music

The new group lesson format on Preply seems to have become my new hobby. On top of my Housing course, I started promoting and successfully teaching another course titled Culture Vulture. The course consists of five one-hour-long lessons dealing with different parts of culture: music, books, films, art and television.

I must admit that I have given this course much more thought than the previous one, and really outlined each lesson before submitting it to the Preply team. I have realised that online students want to focus mostly on conversation classes. I believe that music is a universal language that above all is easy and fun to talk about. Even though I knew that music and films would attract the most people, I didn’t want to focus on these two things only. I decided to mix a few culture-related topics, allowing students to talk about many different things and expand their vocabulary as much as possible.

After creating an outline of the course, I quickly designed a thumbnail to promote the classes. The classes were available for a maximum of six students. I must say that I was a bit nervous as for one week I had one student booked for a morning and one for an evening class. However, after a short talk, I convinced one of the students to join the evening class, which meant one thing – the first group lesson was about to happen. In total there were four students, making it the most successful class up to this day.

This blog post focuses on the first out of five lessons. Below you can find the list of lessons included in the course.

  • The Power of Music
  • Are You a Bookworm?
  • Cinema of the Future
  • The Artist in Me
  • Has the Internet Killed Television?
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The first lesson titled The Power of Music gives students a chance to interview their groupmates and learn about their music habits and preferences. Students share their favourite ways of listening to music and its effects on mood and health. Additionally, students are exposed to short extracts from a BBC 6-minute podcast, Life without music, a recording on the way music influences our day-to-day lives. At the end of the post, you can find the presentation and the lesson plan needed to teach this class.

Talk about your music listening habits. Look at the pictures and analyse the most common situations in which people tend to listen to music. Discuss how and when students like to listen to music. Think about the reasons why people enjoy listening to music in these situations and how it may affect the activity they are currently doing. In my case, this warm-up activity led to an interesting discussion on the reasons behind listening to music in public places, such as buses.

Proceed by thinking about the benefits of music on our health. Students work in pairs or groups and think of three positive impacts music has on us. Watch a short video The Scientific Benefits of Music and check if any of the students’ answers appeared in this recording. According to the video, music helps us with memory loss, gives us more energy when exercising and increases the rate of healing. Optionally, you can finish this part by talking about the points mentioned in the video – Do students agree with everything said in it? This recording will be a good listening warm-up before a podcast which is a bit faster and does not provide any visuals.

Before playing the podcast, show a picture of an ear and a worm. Ask students to predict the compound noun and its meaning. I must say that my group did their absolute best in this part of the class. However, the award for the best answer goes to an answer that an earworm is an infection and should be treated immediately! Play the first part of the podcast and check if students correctly guessed the missing word. Finish by explaining some of the new words, for example, to hum, and think about the last time you had a song stuck in your head. If you have extra time, you could also use this part of the class to focus on compound nouns and their formation.

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Talk about the power of music and its hold on our lives. Students read the statements and discuss if they are true or false. Listen to three extracts from the BBC podcast and check the answers. If needed, head to the BBC 6-minute podcast website and show the transcript. You can also listen to the whole podcast or download the full audio from the website for free.

Statement 1: At restaurants, music can affect what we choose to eat and drink.

Statement 2: The music tempo influences how quickly (or slowly) we shop or eat.

Statement 3: Music does not create the atmosphere in the movies.

As you can see, I decided to divide this podcast into shorter extracts to make it easier to digest and less scary. I played the extracts twice without the need to show the transcript. This division also helped us have more speaking time and eliminated the need to hop around the podcast and find the moments that needed to be repeated.

Since the main reason behind the group lessons is speaking, I decided to give the last 10 minutes for the students to talk with each other. I divided students into pairs and put them into breakout rooms. Students received a list of statements about music and discussed them with each. Some of the statements are: Music does not influence me while shopping, I can imagine the world without music, etc. During this part, you can go into ninja mode and observe the students without being visible to them. It eliminates the pressure of being listened to by a teacher and allows students to speak freely with each other.

I finished the class with the presentation of the rest of the course and some speaking feedback. At the end of the lesson, I was left with two students who decided to proceed with the rest of the course. It definitely motivated me to work more on this course and prepare the best lessons possible for my new pupils.

Feel free to download the files below! Happy listening 🎧

B1 Listening – Women and Football

It doesn’t matter where you are and who you’re talking to, they can recognise Ronaldo or Lewandowski. Why has football become such an essential part of our lives? Why during a World Cup or any other Championship, does the whole world stop? It seems that anywhere we look we are surrounded by sports bars whose income relies almost solely on showing football matches from all over the world. However, one question should be answered – why women’s football is nowhere near as popular as men’s football?

As an expat living in Spain, I don’t know how many times I was asked which football team I support – Barca or Madrid. The truth is, neither. I was always baffled by the popularity of football and the insane amount of money it brings. What strikes me the most is the popularity of men’s football and the negligence of women’s football. As I was looking for a perfect material to base my lesson on football equality, I found a short podcast by BBC Learning English – 6 minutes English ‘Women’s football’ explaining this phenomenon.

Scroll down until the end of the post to download the presentation and a lesson plan, available for free!

Show pictures of four famous female football players and ask students to name them and predict what they may be famous for. Follow this by showing pictures of four male football players. No matter if your students follow football or not, they will be able to name the men without any issues, or at the very least, they will be able to say what they are known for.

Lieke Martens (Paris Saint-Germain), Alexia Putellas (FC Barcelona), Lucy Bronze (England National Team), Lucie Martínková (Sparta Prague)
Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain), Robert Lewandowski (FC Barcelona), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal National Team), Zlatan Ibrahimović (Sweden National Team)

Now that students are prepped and have an understanding of what is going to happen, ask and discuss the main question Why is men’s football more popular than women’s football? Elicit a few answers and see if students can reach a common conclusion. Before finding out the answer, ask a question posed at the beginning of the podcast: When was the first official women’s football world cup? – A: 1970, B: 1988, or C: 1991. Proceed by playing the first part of the recording (0:00 – 5:20).

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Finish this part by reading the transcript of the podcast and asking if the real reason why women’s football isn’t popular surprises them. Do they think that there may be some other reasons that were not mentioned in the recording? You can find the full transcript of the recording on the BBC website.

The second part of the class deals with six new vocabulary items: to dampen enthusiasm, to ban, a concerted effort, a struggle, to have agency and a backlash. Students match the words with their definitions. Check the answers by listening to the second part of the recording (5:20 – 6:20).

It’s time to put the vocabulary into practice. Students read six questions related to football and fill in the gaps with the words from the previous exercise. Put students into pairs or small groups and let them discuss their answers. Listen to their answers and end this part by giving speaking feedback.

The class may end with a B1 PET style writing – article. If you have enough time, write an article in class, if not give it as homework. Students write a short article dealing with different ways to convince young women to play professional football. They also predict whether this sport has any potential to become as popular as its men’s version.

Click the links below to download the lesson plan and the presentation. You may also adjust this presentation in Canva.

B2 – Let’s get nostalgic (podcast)

The older you get, the more you realise the emotional sadness and sense of longing for the past. You start appreciating all the summers you spent in your grandparents’ countryside, running around carefree, worrying only about making it on time to watch your favourite TV show. This podcast-based class should make your B2 adult student look back at their past through rose-coloured glasses and reminisce about their childhood.

Recently I’ve noticed a pattern all over my social media pages – millennial nostalgia. The content creators hit the right spot, reflecting on our sense of style and songs we loved listening to as children. We poke fun at the use of iPods and the extensive use of photobooth on iMacs. We think about different food and drinks that we used to enjoy and which don’t exist anymore. I got so into it that I started scrolling through the #millenialnostlagia, laughing and feeling warm and fuzzy inside.

Of course, since we all come from different backgrounds, our nostalgia triggers are unique. However, no matter our past, we can all agree on the origins of nostalgia: the smell, the taste, sounds (music), films and TV shows, and certain emotions that assisted us during that time. Since it’s such a feel-good topic, I believe it may spark some interesting discussion about specific things that remind us of better times.

This lesson is based on the podcast by Science Friday titled The Healing Power of Nostalgia, which can be assigned as a pre-lesson listening task or can be listened to in class. Since the topic is quite specific, it is targeted at adult students who may have some experience with nostalgia. You can download the worksheet with the lesson plan and the answers at the end of the post.

Start the class by thinking about different things that make us nostalgic. If you have a bigger group, you can ask students to write down three things that make them feel this way on sticky notes, and put them on the whiteboard under different categories. If you have smaller groups or 1:1, you can show the categories and elicit things that make students nostalgic in each area. Ask individual students to share their stories with the rest of the group.

An example of the nostalgia categories and triggers may look like on the whiteboard.

Depending on the amount of time available, you can do this activity in two different ways. You can send the podcast (available on SoundCloud) and ask the students to listen to it before the class, or you can do it in the form of a guided listening. If you choose to do the latter, focus their attention on Exercise B and ask them to read the question and three available options. At this point, do not explain any words yet. Play the recording (-17:26 – -16:08) and check the answers to the question about what makes the host nostalgic. This should introduce some new podcast-related vocabulary (e.g. a host). Check the diagram from the lead-in and compare your nostalgia triggers with the ones mentioned before.

Continue by dividing students into pairs or small groups, and discussing the benefits of nostalgia. Ask to think of the best way to define this word. Listen to the next part of the recording (-16:08 – -14:06) and check the answers to the questions. The benefit of nostalgia mentioned in the podcast was an emotionally protective force in times of crisis. Do the students agree with this statement, or can they come up with other more appropriate or relatable advantages of nostalgia?

Proceed with some individual work. Students read two questions regarding feelings associated with nostalgia and the reason people used to associate nostalgia with negativity. Continue by listening to (-14:06 – -12:05), then check and discuss the answers.

Put students again into the same pairs or groups as before and ask them to talk about different ways in which we can induce nostalgia. Listen to the next part of the recording (-12:05 – -10:47) and compare your suggestions with the ones mentioned in the podcast, e.g. listening to music, consuming media that reconnects us to the past, journaling and scrapbooking. As a group, collect some ideas and check how students like to induce nostalgia and when they tend to do that. Discuss if anyone has ever tried or would try scrapbooking in the future.

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Continue with individual work. Students read two questions about different ways of processing nostalgia and the negative effects it may have on people who tend to be standoffish in their relationships. Students predict the correct answers and listen to the recording (-10:47 – -8:11) to check the answers. Finish this part by discussing whether they agree with what was said in the recording.

Once again, ask the students to work in pairs and think of the differences between personal and group nostalgia. Listen to the recording (-8:11 – -6:31) and check the answers (personal nostalgia is unique to each person, while group nostalgia depends on generations, people living in the same area, etc.) Discuss different examples of group nostalgia in their countries. I know that for me, a millennial from Poland, a big part of group nostalgia is listening to music channels (Viva!) and drinking the artificially sweet beverage Frugo (sadly, discontinued and then brought back to be terminated again).

The next part of the listening involves talking about different parts of the brain that are included in the process of nostalgia. The second part of the task checks their knowledge of vocabulary. Students need to find the word that best describes the feeling of nostalgia. In the podcast, this word is gratitude, which needs to be matched with its synonym (homesickness, appreciativeness or greatness). Listen to the recording (-6:31 – -4:08) and check the answers.

Since we are on the topic of brain activities, students work in small groups again and discuss the accuracy of their memories. Listen to the recording (-4:08 – -2:57) and report on what was said about the way we tend to remember things (it’s a memory of a memory). Finish this part by discussing if the students are maybe unsure of some of their memories and whether they remember some things from stories or pictures and not from living those experiences.

The podcast finishes with a short comparison of our nostalgia and memories to movie making and editing. Play the recording until the end (-2:57 – 0:00) and check the answers. Finish by writing a quote, ‘People can be very nostalgic about difficult times in their lives’ and discuss whether they agree with it or not. If the topic isn’t too sensitive, students may share their personal stories and how they look back at them through rose-coloured glasses.

Since the lesson is for older students, ask them to use their phones to search for things that induce group nostalgia in their countries, e.g. the sound of dial-up Internet, specific food and drink products, etc. Present them to the rest of the group and discuss how these things make them feel and what they make them think of. Below you can find some of the things that certainly make me feel quite nostalgic.

Click the link to access the PDF directly from Canva (+ edit it if needed!) or click the link below to access the ready-made PDF with the teacher’s notes and the answers at the end of the file!

What induces your nostalgia? Do you know some of the things from my picture above? What would you add to the nostalgia list?

Disclaimer: All the time stamps of the podcast are measured backwards. You can play this podcast directly from the website and check the time above!